Wheels for heavy rider. Need advice.

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Jul 17, 2022
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Ashland Va
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I have been helping my neighbor with a bike issue and need some help.

He weighs 320 lbs and is having issues with his rear spokes coming loose.

Bike is a specialized hybrid.

For the past several months he has been riding daily. About 8 miles a day. Mostly pavement, but one section of gravel that is fairly bumpy.

He first came to me and his spokes were very loose and wheel was out of true and rubbing his rim brakes. This was already his second set of wheels. The LBS sold him a set they had in stock with 32 spokes. I was able to tighten the spokes and true the wheel.

It lasted about a week and the problem returned. Fixed the wheel and a week later his spokes were loose again.

I suggested he needed to upgrade the wheels. I did some research and came up with a set of touring wheels. Mavic A719 rims which get great reviews for heavier riders. Link to the wheels below.

I installed the new wheels and things were good for about a month. But today the problem returned.

It is just the rear wheel. Maybe a half dozen spokes were completely loose. I was able to tighten and true the wheels.

Not sure what else to try. I’ve read very mixed opinions on using Loctite. What about linseed oil, wheelsmith spoke prep, anti seize oil? What about spoke tension? Does a heavier rider require higher tension.

Any ideas?

Link to wheels below.

Here's 2 700cc 36 hole rims, the Velo is double wall, not sure about the bontrager.
Hmm. I considered 12g at first. The wheels we bought with the magic a719 rims get great reviews for heavy riders, tandems and touring bikes. Not sure I am comfortable drilling holes in the new hubs. If they were mine yes, but I hate risking other peoples money.

Checked in about a week ago and so far they have been holding up.

My next thought is a suspension seat post to cushion out some of the impact that might otherwise hit the spokes. Sound reasonable?

Also thinking about wheelsmith spoke prep. I didn’t build these wheels, so don’t know what was used. Typically I just use oil.
When I was that weight (330) I had my wheels re-laced with 12g spokes - no issues. They only ever needed a mild tune.

Now that I've lost 100lbs upside is I can give it some air and big hits with real confidence.

*And* I can act all sanctimonious and point out that the wheels aren't really the problem :)
Grin Technologies sells 13/14 guage spokes cut to the proper length. These are best used on the rear wheel. I would check the rim to be sure metal deformation is not the problem. I use 36 hole Velocity Chukker rims in 700c. I have weighed to 286lbs with my present rear wheels with the 13/14 guage spokes only on the cassette side. No broken spokes and no spokes coming loose in such a short time. I have to tighten spokes every few months of riding on most of my bikes. Some bikes go much longer than others but checking spoke tension should be a regular maintenance item. Both wheels need to be checked. 13 guage spokes fit in 14 guage hub flange holes with no modification. I will say if a rear wheel starts squeaking while being ridden then tightening the spokes is the first thing I do. 12 guage spokes will fix this problem but must be paired with an appropriately heavy duty rim. Putting thick spokes on a weaker rim begs spokes pulling through the metal and rim breakage. Being a Clyde myself I have lived with bicycle wheel issues for decades.
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Very interested in this. My nephew is 300+ pounds and does love riding. Lin
I’m still working on this. I have watched a ton of wheel building videos and have gotten some great advice from professional wheel builders.

I tried blue loctite on existing spoke nipples. I know there are mixed opinions on this, but I had a professional wheel builder suggest it might be worth a shot. Well the loctite acts really fast. Had a hard time tightening spokes and finally broke a spoke. So I do not recommend loctite.

I bought new 14g straight spokes and dt Swiss Pro Lock Head Nipples. I plan to rebuild the wheels this week. I am going to pay extra attention to spoke tension. Plan to use the park tool online app to get the spokes within 5% tolerance. And really put a lot of force into pre-stress and straightening the spokes. I also plan to recheck the tension proactively after he goes on one or two rides.

I am also replacing the 700x38 tires with 700x42 tires.

From what I have researched even spoke tension is critical. It is possible to have a true wheel with uneven tension. I will be measuring the tension with a tool.

I also think the larger tire will absorb more shock.

Will update this thread with my experience.

I do like the idea of 12g spokes, but we have already invested in new hubs and rims.

Has anyone wire wrapped spokes? I watched a good tutorial on it. Doesn’t look that hard, but I don’t think it is common.
"I am also replacing the 700x38 tires with 700x42 tires."

That's what I was going to suggest, larger tires to take up some shock. If you haven't bought the tires yet, maybe go with 45 width, that's about 1.75 inches.
I am also replacing the 700x38 tires with 700x42 tires.
My deeper V shaped rims have absorbed all kinds of abuse over 5 years without need for adjustment while my less deep V shaped rims keep getting fixed and keep popping. Not to discount the spoke advice which is my primary problem as well, but in addition to that some shapes work better at distributing and absorbing the shock. 45mm deep Vs on thinner 23" airless tires have given me no problems, all weather, all terrain and I beat them up good. 30mm Vs on thicker 28" airless tires under the same conditions failed miserably. Spokes remaining the focus, if you're still having trouble consider the rim shape. I'm not as heavy but without a camera strapped up front I ride like I'm on a BMX. So much so that I've considered starting a thread of parts I've cracked but it felt like comparing scars, ( bragging about my ignorance =).
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